Business booming for cinema concessions

Companies step up presentations at Cinema Expo

AMSTERDAM -- An increasingly upbeat attitude in international exhibition has extended to the concession side of operations.

"Business has been booming this year," said Roger Frazier, staffing a booth on the busy Cinema Expo trade show floor for Cincinnati popcorn-machine vendor Gold Medal Products. "People have a little more money to spend, and they're renovating theaters or building new ones."

That means new popcorn machines, but Frazier's product pitch remains gloriously simple -- even abroad.

"International exhibitors are the same as any others," he said. "You discuss pricing and size of the machines and any add-ons for nachos and such. That's about it."

Paul Panabaker's show booth presentations for 3D vendor MasterImage are more complicated. The Burbank company is using the show to introduce reusable 3D glasses, an option often requested by European customers.

"Most of our glasses are for one-time use, but our new reusable ones do have a pricing advantage against other reusables," Panabaker said.

Washable 3D glasses generally retail for $17 and up; MasterImage charges $4 to $5 for its eyewear. The company also is demonstrating a 3D display screen for mobile phones.

Like Gold Medal, MasterImage also staffs booths at domestic trade shows. But Panabaker said he likes pitching exhibs in Europe, where surging international boxoffice has refilled corporate coffers and looky loo is lost in translation.

"This show is different from the American shows," he said. "There are fewer tire-kickers here, and you run into more real buyers on the show floor."

Monica Sanchez of Barcelona-based Figueroa International, hawking its plush fabric and leather theater seats, also reported brisk business.

"We have made some new contacts, and some people we have been talking to for a few months have come here to see the seats," Sanchez said.

Elsewhere Wednesday, Disney distribution boss Chuck Viane's top international execs staged an energetic slate presentation focusing on the studio's signature family titles, such as the Pixar-produced "Toy Story 3" and Jerry Bruckheimer's live-action fantasy "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

Exhibs got a 15-minute peek at footage from the latter work in progress.

"What Disney has in the production pipeline will fill seats in your cinemas," international distribution exec vp Daniel Frigo said.

Disney screened the "Toy Story" threequel afterward.

Warner Bros. international topper Veronika Kwan-Rubinek and distribution colleagues also presented a titles-packed show reel featuring lengthy clips of 3D tentpoles "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" and "Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore." The studio screened romantic comedy "Going the Distance" and today will show Christopher Nolan's "Inception" for the first time to exhibs anywhere.

Cinema Expo concludes its four-day run at the RAI convention center Thursday with events including an awards luncheon.